Sunday, August 07, 2005

Abbot Platypus

I'm almost at the end of a delightful novel, Jane Austen's "Northanger Abbey". With her characteristic flair for making the mundane absolutely fascinating, Austen sets forth a comical (in the Shakespearean sense) drama of the interplay of perceptions and imagination with reality. Writ short, that's watching a seventeen year old girl let her imagination run away with her turning a typical "meet the parents" into her own personal gothic novel. Ok, so I guess that wasn't writ short... just writ differently. It makes you wonder, though, how often do I treat people like typed characters in some sort of book? This person has this quality we've observed so they must be motivated by "x" and hold "y" opinion about "p". She's a Republican, she must be stingy. She's a Democrat, she must be a bleeding heart liberal. He drives a flashy car, he must be compensating for something. He leaves the party when his wife asks him to go, he must be whipped. They hold "x" opinion, they must be ignorant, or fanatics, or have some hidden motive. That's just the way humans think. It saves time. -fills in the blanks. Our imaginations may not convert innocent widowers into diabolical murderers, but they do make fictions out of real people each day. Oh, and if you want to know, the Platypus has already moved on to Bronte.


Jess said...

Isn't Austen cool? I was reading some of her VERY early (i.e., adolescent) stuff, and it's astonishingly clever. In "Love and Friendship" she writes this great satire of the current novels of sentiment, where everyone's always fainting all over the place. It reminded me of Northanger.

James said...

Northanger is only the second Austen novel that I've read, so I'm still cultivating my taste. When I get a break again I'll have to continue on down the list. For now, it's back to Greek, Geeks and more Greeks. ;-)